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Youth Believing in Change Executive Director Vince Gaddis (left) was just starting his afterschool ministry when seven-year old Linwood Fields first attended the program. Linwood credits YBC with teaching him how to be a better student and better person, helping him to be accepted into a magnet high school and then graduating from SMU before joining he Air Force to serve his country.

Seven Year Old Student Grows Up Through YBC To Excel at Townview Magnet, SMU and Air Force

Linwood Benjamin James Fields is named after his father Linwood, and he admits he ended up with such a long name because his parents liked “Benjamin James” but also wanted to honor his father. “So, my name is sort of a collaboration—a combination if you will—of what my parents wanted for me.”

Born at St. Paul Hospital, he grew up in Oak Cliff, and at the age of seven met Vince Gaddis at Concord Missionary Baptist Church, where Vince was a minister.

Vince was working with kids in an afterschool program he developed called “Youth Believing in Change,” and as he was setting the foundation for it, Linwood became involved. YBC was a place to go after school to get homework done, eat a hot meal and be encouraged by caring adults. Linwood attended Martin Weiss Elementary in south Dallas, and spent his summers at the YBC summer camp in Dallas, learning how to become a leader, and how to lean on God.

“I knew who Jesus was but never actually had a relationship with him,” Linwood says. That changed in the summer of 2001 when Vince arranged for him to attend “Kids Across America Kamp” in Missouri. “It changed my life. On the third day at camp I made a decision for Christ.  I went two more summers after that, sort of as a student leader of other kids from YBC.” The group attending the camp ballooned up to over 30 kids and Linwood realizes now, looking back, “It was hard on Vince—he had two young children at home, and his wife, and he hated to leave them.”

As Linwood became a leader in YBC he also became a leader at his elementary school, and then applied and got into the Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Magnet School of Government, Law, & Law Enforcement in downtown Dallas.

He worked on his first political campaign while a sophomore at Townview as part of a grass roots effort in 2004, and is pleased to note his official won and has been re-elected and is still in office today.

In his junior year, he enjoyed a semester as a Congressional Intern. “I lived in the attic of the building of the Library of Congress with a roommate from Wisconsin,” Linwood says, proud to be one of 60 pages at the time. The Senate still has the page program, but Congress doesn’t. “Most of us were 16 or 17 years old,” he remembers.  “We had supervision, but also freedom to go explore D.C. It was a great experience to actually to see how the government works.” His day began at 4:30 a.m. with AP-level classes and then, if congress was in session, he’d head there two hours later, at 6:30 a.m.

After four years, with excellent grades, he graduated from Townview and applied to SMU and was accepted. Grants and loans helped get him through, and after four years he graduated with a Political Science degree.

Responding to his continued desire for service and commitment he enlisted in the Air Force. “I wanted to serve, and find my footing in the world,” he says. He began his basic training in March of 2012, and now, five years later, has just signed up for another four. He is an Air Force Medic, which means he can put in IVs, give shots, and assist doctors and nurses with routine exams and medical procedures. “I know this medical background will help me throughout my life,” he says.

Though Linwood was planning to return to serve at YBC next year, he recently was offered opportunity to sign up for four more years and become a chaplain. As a result he will be closer to home as he will leave LA, where he’s been stationed the last four years, and will now be at Edwards Air Force base in San Antonio, working at the military hospital, “a new change of pace and environment for me.” He is also beginning the process to be commissioned as a chaplain. He’s taking on-line courses from Dallas Theological Seminary, the same school that his mentor, Vince Gaddis, attended.

He plans to do his 20 years in the Military, going wherever the Air Force takes him, and then start his career as a preacher—or possibly working in an organization like Youth Believing in Change. “I know a lot from the student perspective,” he says, “It would be fun to be on the other side.”

One of his most challenging moments in life occurred while a student in YBC. Right before his first year at SMU, Vince convinced him to attend a wilderness camp in the summer, and he was so scared that Vince was worried about him finishing the week. His tent-mate didn’t—after one day, the kid called his parents to pick him up.  “I seriously worried about him that week,” Vince says, laughing about it now. “There was a 100 foot drop at that camp, and I thought oh my—what if Linwood falls? Or worse, jumps?” Vince prayed hard for his young protégé’ and Linwood prayed for strength to overcome his fears and make it through the week. He did.

And now he’s leaping into five more years of service to the nation, as he continues his time in the Air Force.

His mother still lives in Oak Cliff, and with three brothers and a sister in town, Linwood figures he’ll be back in the Dallas area one day.

He credits his success in school—elementary, high school and college—with the lessons he learned at Youth Believing in Change. “Do your homework. Study Hard, work hard. And pray. Lean on God.”

He already sounds like the chaplain he’s studying to become.

 

YBC has a summer camp program in Lake Highlands that begins when school ends. Parents of children in DISD and RISD served by YBC can enroll their children now. Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson will be the keynote speaker at “An Evening of Change,” on Thursday, May 4, 2017, raising funds for the Youth Believing in Change (YBC) after school and summer camp program. The annual dinner will be held at Highland Park Presbyterian Church, where Faith will be speaking about her own faith growing up.

For more information about the dinner or for tickets, contact YBC at 214-692-9242. Tables of eight are available for $500 and individual tickets or sponsorships are also available.

Afterschool tutors and volunteers are always welcome. Scout troops are encouraged to consider YBC when Eagles Scout projects are being discussed. For more information see the Ybc Dallas Facebook page, or the website: www.ybcdallas.org 

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St. Elizabeth of Hungary 7th grader Marcello Carrillo II is looking forward to his family's tradition of an Easter cookout followed by a hunt for Easter Eggs. Like his classmates, and millions of Christians across the globe, he has given up something for the 40 days of Lent and is focusing on his relationship with God.

Forty Days of Lent and Sacrifice are about to end with Joy on Easter Sunday

Easter is the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection, and is considered the most important feast of the liturgical year. Christians prepare for Easter during Lent, a period of 40 days of fasting and prayer, starting on Ash Wednesday and concluding on Holy Thursday, which this year is this Thursday, April 13, 2017.

In Lent, many Christians commit to fasting, as well as "giving up" certain favorite things—luxuries--in order to "replicate the sacrifice of Jesus Christ’s journey into the desert.”

Roman Catholic churches and some protestant churches also remove flowers from their altars and cover crosses, religious statues, and other elaborate religious symbols in violet fabrics in solemn observance of the event.

Catholics also are asked to give up meat on Fridays during Lent. This tradition is meant to help Catholics remember Jesus as they sit down for dinner at night at the end of a busy week, to pray for each-other and those who need to know God. Very young children, pregnant women and the elderly are exempt from this abstention, recognizing that growing bodies need lots of protein to stay healthy.

Students in Catholic schools are often asked to declare what they are giving up, so that their peers can encourage them to stay strong and remember what Jesus gave up for them.

St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic School in Oak Cliff is following in this tradition, and the school’s Religious Coordinator, teacher Gina Gresham, asked her 7th grade students to write down what each was giving up, and doing more of, during the Lenten season. Recognizing that writing down your goals cements them more in your life, each student did just that.

Alayna Prasifka took her assignment seriously. “This year for Lent I am adding and changing somethings in my life. I am trying to add three fruits and three vegetables a day to my diet. I am also trying to add more Scripture reading to my religious life.” She also plans to “stop procrastinating.”

Thirteen-year-old Evelyn Santos chose to “stop bringing myself down, stop letting people get to me, and stop procrastinating,” and says, “I am helping my mother more around the house,” during the 40 days of Lent. She looks forward to her family’s Easter traditions. “We all go to Sunday Mass together then we eat a big family brunch!”

Both Jennifer Jochim, 14, and Aileen Arreola, 13, are giving up watching anime to have more time to do more service. Jennifer will spend her extra time helping abandoned animals at the SPCA, while Aileen will spend her time praying in Mass.

Twelve-year-old Isaiah Mendoza is giving up fried foods and his iPod for the forty days of Lent, and will be helping his mother more around their home. He looks forward to Easter Sunday and the family tradition of finding colored eggs in the backyard.

Luc Solis says he is doing more almsgiving this Lenten season, and looks forward to going to visit his aunt and uncle’s house on Easter, where he’ll visit with his extended family and “eat a ton of good food and watch the little kids find eggs and play.”

Not just 7th graders are giving up some favorite thing for Lent. Joseph Rodriguez, a high school senior from Cedar Hill who's already accepted to attend West Virginia University in the fall, has also given up sweets and soda for 40 days. It’s not a big deal to Joey. Losing his baby sister, Reagan Joy, to childhood Cancer has made the holidays hard on his family. He and his parents and older sister Megan attend Mass together, and then go to visit Reagan’s gravesite. Throughout the year, the family works at various events together to raise Childhood Cancer Awareness through their support of several fund raisers. Keeping her memory alive is similar to the dying and rising of the Easter Passion story. It has made Joey a stronger individual, capable of taking on new challenges—like going far away to college.

Adults also give up favorite things for Lent, to remember the sacrifice Jesus made. East Dallas resident and ESPN Project manager Josey Warnick gave up beer. That might sound funny to some, but she is surrounded by friends and co-workers who drink it as they get off work, and four nights a week she works as a bartender at Alfonso’s Italian Restaurant in Lake Highlands, so each beer ordered reminds her to remember what Jesus gave up for her. It’s a daily reminder--a good way for her--to draw closer to God.

If you have questions about Lent or the Easter traditions, contact Ms. Grisham at ggresham@saintspride.com

St. Elizabeth’s if located and 4019 South Hampton Road in south Dallas. The Catholic School has been in existence since 1958 and is open to students of all faiths. The school is having a Cinco Day Mayo Fiesta Celebration and Auction on May 5th at 1004 Fort Worth Avenue, Dallas, 75208. For more information contact Sandy Walker at Sandy Walkley at: swalkley@saintspride.com
(214) 331-5139 x21

 

Judy Porter writes about local heroes and businesses. Contact her at judy-porter@sbcglobal.net

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Traylon (middle) and Xavier (right) have received 100% Math certificates for their work at Thurgood Marshall School. These three boys, like the 175 other students who come to the Youth Believing in Change After School program, are excelling in their academic work, and learn to respect and care for one another while at YBC. The program is free to the students. An Annual "Evening of Change" on May 4 will be held as a fund raiser to help run the program. The evening features Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson is the keynote speaker for the event.

Average Students Learn to Become Academically Superior at Youth Believing in Change

Traylon Willis is nine years old and is new to Youth Believing in Change.
 
He has two younger brothers, ages five years old and five months old, and an older sister who is 12. Traylon helps his mother with his little brothers, especially the baby. He’s a good student at DISD's Thurgood Marshall Elementary on Ferris Branch Boulevard, and just received his 100% certificate in Math. He loves Math and Reading. He wants to be a football player when he grows up. He plans on attending college at Texas Tech in Lubbock, and hopes to study both math and writing.
 
Xavier Rodriguez turned nine years old on March 8th and he also received the 100% Thurgood Marshall certificate for math. He’s been going to YBC since second grade. His favorite subjects are writing and science. Xavier plans to be a police officer or a doctor. His excellent math and writing skills—and his personality—will get him there. Xavier is the middle of three boys, so he gets along with everyone. He plans on going to college at TCU in Fort Worth to study and knows he will work hard and accomplish his goals.
 
Youth Believing in Change prepares these young students for their futures by ensuring that they finish their homework, eat a good afternoon meal, and learn good skills they can use for life. Both DISD Elementary schools and Richardson ISD send children to the Lake Highland area program.
 
A summer camp program begins when school ends. Parents of children in DISD and RISD served by YBC can enroll their children now.

Begun 22 years ago in a public park as a simple reading program, over 175 students a week are tutored on site, and more than 300 students attend the summer enrichment camp.

Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson will be the keynote speaker at “An Evening of Change,” on Thursday, May 4,2017, raising funds for the Youth Believing in Change (YBC) after school program. The annual dinner will be held at Highland Park Presbyterian Church, where Faith will be speaking about her own faith growing up.

For more information about the dinner or for tickets, contact YBC at 214-692-9242. Tables of eight are available for $500 and individual tickets or sponsorships are also available. Afterschool tutors and volunteers are always welcome. Scout troops are encouraged to consider YBC when Eagles Scout projects are being discussed.

 
For more information see the Ybc Dallas Facebook page, or the website: www.ybcdallas.org 
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Tamika Jones Abendroth always knew she wanted to be a lawyer, helping families. Now she works in and out of the courtroom to do just that, including volunteering in her free time to help women and children in Dallas.

Young Mother Always wanted to be a lawyer, volunteers in her free time

Tamika Jones Abendroth is a true Texan – and Dallasite.

Born in Dallas at Parkland Hospital, she was raised in the quiet Dallas suburb of Cedar Hill. The oldest of three, she has a younger sister Johnica Jones who is three years younger and her brother, John Jones, who is thirteen years younger.

Tamika admits, “I have always known that I wanted to be a lawyer. It is written on every ‘what do you want to be’ document I have from my childhood,” she says with a laugh.

She excelled at Cedar Hill High School, then in college at the University of Texas at Dallas. After that she attended Texas Wesleyan University School of Law.

Along the way, Tamika has lived in five cities, all in Texas: Cedar Hill, Richardson, Oak Cliff, Austin (for a summer in law school) and finally settling now in Garland.

She met her husband, James, in college. “I was best friends with his best friend and roommate,” she explains. The two added to their family 20 months ago with the birth of their daughter, Ellis Vivian Elaine.

Tamika admits she has a simple reason for all the education she logged through to get where she is today: “I am an attorney because I want to help people. It is cheesy but true. I understand that I am helping families deal with one of the most challenging and stressful life events that they will experience. It is really humbling.”

She once met Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson of the Texas Supreme Court. Friends who know her think Tamika could end up there one day—soon.

She admits she’s had some crazy episodes as an attorney, but one stands out: she had a client who was very, very pregnant, “but denying it throughout the litigation up until the day of trial. Nobody believed her but she lost all credibility when she went into labor during the lunch break!”

A Life of Service

A "newish" member of the Altrusa International Club of Downtown Dallas, Tamika is part of a wave of recent members joining who are significantly younger than the veteran club members. The service club is realizing a type of renaissance, with a dozen new members joining in the past few years in the twenty-five to thirty-five-year-old range, and the first two males to join the formerly all-female club.

Tamika and a few other members have been affectionately dubbed “The Bad Mamas,” and the group happily embraces the fun moniker, and often travels together to out of town events and works together at local volunteer opportunities.

“She's taught me a lot about having difficult conversations and facing issues that are uncomfortable,” says another young mother Kim Abmeyer, First Vice President of Investments at Raymond James. “But she also is never one to turn down a get together or an excuse to blow off some steam and spend some quality time with us, bad mamas! I am truly thankful that Altrusa has brought her into my life and I can call her my friend.”

Christina Coultas, also a recent member of the service club adds, “Tamika is a friend that makes my life better by just being in it.  I am so grateful that Altrusa brought us together.  More than once while discussing the day to day of our lives she has said to me, ‘I got your back!’  I never doubt that for a moment from Tamika.  Her quick wit is infectious and she has taught me so much about standing tall and not being afraid of having difficult conversations, and making space in our lives to prioritize service to our community and each other.”

Tamika loves volunteering in the Dallas community. “It’s awesome,” she says of the service club and her “bad mama” friends, using her favorite word to describe the experience. “To volunteer together, to work together to make Dallas a better place to live, it’s just—well—awesome!”

Also awesome is her skill at cooking. “I make the best homemade macaroni and cheese. It's better than my mom's and my sister’s--who is the family chef--but that may just be my opinion,” she admits with a laugh.

She also admits transitioning into motherhood was very challenging for her. “I thought passing the bar and sitting for the board certification exam was tough, but balancing being a wife, mom, and attorney has really stretched me.”

This struggle may be the reason she is such a caring family law attorney. She knows she was blessed because, “James is a great husband and dad. He supports me in all that I do, and makes being a working-mother so much easier.” She also has a family who supports her. “They love me and they all love my daughter. They are always willing to take her to give me a weekend off to have fun with friends, to do service, or take some time to pamper myself.”

Board certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, Tamika has now joined Lisa E. McKnight, P.C., one of the most effective law firms in the city. It has a reputation for winning tough cases and is the only family law practice with a professional counselor on its staff to assist clients. Prior to joining Lisa McKnight P.C., Tamika practiced at Legal Aid of Northwest Texas helping low-income families in crisis. Her practice at Legal Aid focused on family law exclusively. Navigating the legal system is very time-consuming and challenging. She works hard to provide her clients with the legal expertise, respect, and the time and attention that their matter deserves.

Looking to her future, Tamika has a simple wish: “I hope to be a happy, well-adjusted wife and mom. I would love to expand my practice by continuing to become knowledgeable of the advances in family law and helping families.”

To contact Tamika call: 214-528-4191. Lisa E. McKnight P.C. is located at 4807 Gaston Avenue, Dallas, TX 75246. 

To learn more about the Altrusa International Club of Downtown Dallas see: www.altrusadtd.com or contact Tamika about attending a future meeting.

Judy Porter writes about local heroes and non-profits in Dallas. To contact her email: judy-porter@sbcglobal.net

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The youngest of 13, Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson knows how important faith--and a good education--is to a child's future. She will be the keynote speaker at "An Evening of Change," on May 4, 2017. The event benefits the Youth Believing in Change Afterschool program located in Lake Highlands, which serves nine public schools. Tickets and sponsorships for the dinner, to be held at Highland Park Presbyterian Church, are available.

Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson told the crowd at her installation last December at the Frank Crowley Courts Building, "I want to represent the people of Dallas County with integrity and justice and fairness."

Johnson, a Republican, is the first black female district attorney in Dallas County — a fact first noted at the installation ceremony by Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, which brought the crowd to a standing ovation. He continued, "Today, we mark a new day, a day that will mark the beginning of a new year and a new partnership," the mayor said. "Let's have a partnership that is honest, transparent and forthright for the citizens of Dallas County."

Faith Johnson will be honest, transparent and forthright as the keynote speaker at “An Evening of Change,” on Thursday, May 4,2017, for the Youth Believing in Change (YBC) after school program. The annual dinner will be held at Highland Park Presbyterian Church, where Faith will be speaking about her own faith growing up.

She has been friends with YBC’s founder, Dallas Theological Seminary graduate Vince Gaddis, for over two decades. The two met in church and have kept in touch. Faith has been a big supporter of the YBC afterschool program which gives hundreds of public school children a safe place to go to do their homework, eat a hot meal, and be encouraged for three hours.

Begun 22 years ago in a public park as a simple reading program, over 175 students a week are tutored on site, and more than 300 students attend the summer enrichment camp.

Nine public schools in both the Dallas and Richardson Independent Schools Districts send their students to the sprawling campus on Stults Road in Lake Highlands. The program is free to the children, made possible by the generous donations of private donors.

For more information about the dinner or for tickets, contact YBC at 214-692-9242. Tables of eight are available for $500 and individual tickets or sponsorships are also available. Afterschool tutors and volunteers are always welcome. Scout troops are encouraged to consider YBC when Eagles Scout projects are being discussed.

See the Facebook page: Ybc Dallas or www.ybcdallas.org for more information.

 

 

 

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Principal Rachel Dzurilla had four children in two years--two sets of twins--and when it was time to send them to school, she went with them. Now she gives advice to young parents who aren't sure when and where to put their child in an academic setting.

Pre-School Options in Dallas Large in Number, Small in Openings; Option for K-8th grade Schools Promote Student Confidence

Children ages 3, 4 and 5 are often hard to place due to lack of space in traditional daycare, but Pre-k - 8th grade schools are a viable option

The first five years of a child's life are critically important, the foundation that shapes children's future health, happiness, growth, development and learning achievement at school, in the family and community, and in life. But those Middle School Years are key too, according to new research.

Research confirms that the first five years are particularly important for the development of the child's brain, and the first three years are the most critical in shaping the child's brain architecture. Early experiences provide the base for the brain's organizational development and functioning throughout life. They have a direct impact on how children develop learning skills as well as social and emotional abilities.

“Children learn more quickly during their early years than at any other time in life,” says Principal Rachel Dzurilla, the mother of two sets of twins, and a former Dallas Police Officer. She was a stay-at-home mother until her children were old enough for Kindergarten, then took a teaching position at the school. “They need love and nurturing to develop a sense of trust and security that turns into confidence as they grow.”

That is why placing a child in a loving, academic setting is so crucial. And why keeping a child in the same loving atmosphere through their middle school years, 6th - 8th grades, promotes confidence and better grades for most students as they enter their high school years.

Beginning the Search

Finding a Daycare or school that is best for your child can be tricky. Referrals from family and friends are typically the best way to start, and then googling the options suggested to get reviews and verification on-line about the school. Talking with parents of children currently attending a daycare or school you are considering is key.

Often daycare teachers are less educated than those working in a school that teaches older children, too. To give your child an academic edge, placing him or her in a school setting rather than a daycare facility may be the best option. In Oak Cliff, there are several church-related schools that have classes from Pre-K3 to 8th grade, versus a daycare that takes care of infants just six weeks old up to four years old. And new research suggests a pre-K through 8th grade school gives students more confidence as they enter high school, versus moving a student into a middle school setting for 6th through 8th grades. Instead of becoming the "low man on the totem pole" as a 6th grader in a new middle school setting--producing stress and nervousness in a student--a child who remains in a familiar school setting does better as he or she continues to learn in a place where they're familiar, with few worries about new teachers, rules and expectations.

Kindergarten Key to Future Academic Success

Young children grow, learn and develop rapidly when they receive love and affection, attention, encouragement and mental stimulation, as well as nutritious meals and good health care. A daycare setting may provide some of this, but without an educational component by professional teachers, a child misses out on the critical knowledge necessary to promote them through their academic years—and life.

If children have a bad experience in Kindergarten, it can shape their future with a negative outlook on learning, curb their curiosity and doom them to a life of struggle.

To keep students smiling a teacher must encourage questions, curiosity and creativity. A vibrant humanities program which opens hearts and promotes enthusiasm, self-esteem, skill acquisition, and opportunity to highlight their talents in music, art, Spanish, computer science, and physical education is ideal.

Finding the Right School for Your Child

Parents of young children can start their search for the right school by asking their neighbors, friends and relatives where they send their children. Summer camps are enrolling now for the months of June and July and often that is a good way to start looking for a school program for the fall. Private schools often open up their classrooms and playgrounds to summer campers. Looking on line under the Catholic Diocese of Dallas website or googling “Dallas Summer Camps” can give parents a wealth of choices.

Even pregnant mothers who plan to return to the work force can begin their research on their child’s future school. Some of the most popular daycares and schools have a waiting list, and getting on it can be the key to getting your child in when Mom is ready to go back to work.

The mother of four children, two sets of twins in two years, Rachel Dzurilla knows the struggle. Her children are all in college now, but she remembers well the craziness of raising four small toddlers, and found a way to be with them when they went to school—she joined the staff at St. Elizabeth’s of Hungary part time, then full time as a teacher, and eventually as Vice Principal for seven years, and now principal. “Not every mom can go to school with her children,” she says with a laugh, “but it was the right solution for me.”

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

 

Need advice where to send your child to summer camp or in the fall? Principal Rachel Dzurilla can help.

St. Elizabeth’s of Hungary is a resource for families with questions and has openings for children of all ages, beginning at pre-k3. The public is invited to come tour the school and meet the exceptional faculty and staff. For more information contact Sandy Walkley swalkley@saintspride.com
(214) 331-5139 x21 or talk with Principal Rachel Dzurilla about the options in Oak Cliff.

For more information see the school’s website: http://saintspride.com/ 

The school located at 4019 South Hampton Road, Dallas, TX 75224 next door to the Walgreens on the corner of Loop 12 Ledbetter and Hampton.

Writer Judy Porter also raised four children--including twins boys--and eventually taught at the high School her children attended. She can be reached at judy-porter@sbcglobal.net

 

 

 

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Restaurant Owner Pete Colombo--with wife Pim-- is implementing new dishes and specials in his 35-year-old eatery, Alfonso's Italian Restaurant on Buckner at Northcliff in Lake Highlands. A new bartender and "Ladies Night" special--half-price entrée on Thursdays for female patrons dining at the bar--are proving popular.

Alfonso’s Italian Restaurant Still Strong after 35 Years

Expanded Bar,  New Bartender and New “Ladies Night” Special Becoming Popular Option With Customers

While most stand-alone concept restaurants come and go in eight months, Alfonso’s Italian Restaurant is enjoying a renaissance.

After 35 successful years in Lake Highlands, Alfonso’s is updating its menu, atmosphere and staff to keep up with the times.

Established in 1982 in Casa Linda Plaza, serving pizza and pasta dishes in a rustic old style Italian setting, the restaurant was named after owner Peter Colombo’s father.  Pete tries to keep his ingredients as fresh as possible, following in the footsteps of his dear ol’ dad and his love of enjoying only the freshest food available.

“In staying with my father’s dedication to fine food, all the foods listed on the menu are prepared to order,” Pete says. “Although this process may take a little longer, the end results are worth the wait.”

Anne Marie Alongi came to Alfonso’s for the first time on the recommendation of a friend. “I was in heaven,” says the Italian Food connoisseur and former Patriot’s Cheerleader. The New England transplant has been seeking a good Italian restaurant since her move to the north Texas area last year, and enjoyed her grilled Salmon dish and side of pasta and marinara sauce more than she could imagine. "I'll be back," she vowed, after her initial dining experience.

There were just six seats at the bar in Alfonso's for the past 25 years, since the restaurant's move to its current location in 1991. Recent renovations have made the restaurant more friendly to a lone diner. The expanded bar now seats 16 people, with another 20 seats at the tables in the bar area, 30 more than in the previous two decades.

Recognizing that the world-–and the neighborhood--is changing a new “Ladies Night” on Thursday at the bar has all entrees half-price for the women who dine there. On a recent Thursday evening, the bar area was full of diners including a DISD teacher, two friends, a few couples, and a single woman from the neighborhood who was happy to have people all around her to chat with.

Another new addition to the restaurant is a regular bartender. With the expanded bar area and special Ladies Night on Thursday, Pete recognized the need to have a familiar face behind the bar.

Josey Warnick has a Master’s of Science in Public Relations and a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications and Journalism from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. A new  resident of the Lake Highlands area, she is in Dallas as a project manager for ESPN, with a primary focus on the 17-week football season in the Fall, so her ability to chat with patrons about sports is a bonus. She’s behind the bar Thursday through Sunday, and Pete hopes that will keep regular customers coming back.

It seems to be working. Besides the delicious garlic rolls and the better service at the bar, the neighborhood-friendly atmosphere has been successful in attracting back former customers while bringing in new neighbors that have transferred into the area. Lone diners are surrounded by neighbors and new friends, making the experience more pleasant.

Pete hopes his place will be serving up the best in Italian dishes for the next 35 years. His neighbors--and new customers--hope so too.

 

Alfonso’s is located at 718 N Buckner Boulevard, #222 in Lake Highlands, Dallas, 75218.

Open Tuesday through Saturday at 11:00 a.m. for lunch and Sunday at 11:30, the restaurant closes on weeknights at 9:30, 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Contact the restaurant at: 214-327-7777 or see: http://www.alfonsositalianrestaurant.com

 

 

 

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The kindergarten class at St. Elizabeth's of Hungary is led by veteran award-winning educator Melissa Guerrero who reads animatedly to her students daily. The class follows an exceptional pre-kindergarten class for three and four year olds, providing the best educational experience a young child can have promoting curiosity, caring and creativity in each individual student. Children as young as three can begin in St. Elizabeth's Pre-K3 class to prepare for their successful academic future.

Best Pre-School in America is in St. Elizabeth of Hungary School in Oak Cliff

Children ages 3, 4 and 5 are welcome to tour the school with their parents, meet the exceptional teachers and administrators

The first five years of a child's life are critically important, the foundation that shapes children's future health, happiness, growth, development and learning achievement at school, in the family and community, and in life.

Research confirms that the first five years are particularly important for the development of the child's brain, and the first three years are the most critical in shaping the child's brain architecture. Early experiences provide the base for the brain's organizational development and functioning throughout life. They have a direct impact on how children develop learning skills as well as social and emotional abilities.

That is the reason St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic School enrolls children as young as three years old.

“Children learn more quickly during their early years than at any other time in life,” says Principal Rachel Dzurilla, the mother of two sets of twins. “They need love and nurturing to develop a sense of trust and security that turns into confidence as they grow.”

That is why placing a child in a loving, academic setting is so crucial, and St. Elizabeth of Hungary has two outstanding teachers and a phenomenal program to help children in pre-K3, pre-K4 and Kindergarten get the best start they can possibly have to guarantee a successful life.

That’s why Rachel Dzurilla hired Pre-K teacher Susan Ann Molloy. She may be the most over-qualified pre-school teacher in America.

Pre-K3 and Pre-K4

Like the principal who hired her last fall, each has multiple degrees. Susan has a Bachelor of Science in Speech Therapy with a minor in Education from Western Michigan and a Master’s in Speech Therapy from Eastern Michigan University. And now, she says, she’s found her perfect job: surrounded by three and four-year-old for eight hours a day.

The Michigan native arrived in Texas about two years ago. She worked in an Arlington school for a year, but said the public-school paperwork made her depressed. She felt like she spent more time filling out forms and explaining her diagnoses than helping the children she worked with. “I might see a student for two hours a week,” she explains, “And then spend twice that on paperwork that documented what we worked on. It was frustrating and disheartening.”

Now Susan gets to work with her students every day at St. Elizabeth of Hungary for seven to eight hours. And even better, these are children learning language and new words each day. Susan is right there to help them with their speech, so can catch problems before they become an issue in their lives.

Kindergarten Key to Future Academic Success

Young children grow, learn and develop rapidly when they receive love and affection, attention, encouragement and mental stimulation, as well as nutritious meals and good health care. A daycare setting may provide some of this, but without an educational component by professional teachers, a child misses out on the critical knowledge necessary to promote them through their academic years—and life.

If children have a bad experience in Kindergarten, it can shape their future with a negative outlook on learning, curb their curiosity and doom them to a life of struggle.

Melissa Guerrero is aware of this, so keeps her students smiling with her positive outlook on life. She encourages questions, curiosity and creativity. She is supported by a strong principal and surrounded by professional teachers and programs including a vibrant humanities program which opens hearts and promotes enthusiasm, self-esteem, skill acquisition, and enhancement of the academic curriculum. It provides the students an opportunity to highlight their talents in music, art, Spanish, computer science, and physical education. Ms. Guerrero is a veteran teacher and mother, who began her career at Good Shepherd Catholic School in Garland decades ago, where she met her husband, Stephen, who is also an award-winning educator.

While many public schools have no programs in the Arts, St. Elizabeth’s comprehensive instructional program in music effectively integrates technology with the learning of music.

Pre-K through fifth grades entertain parents at an annual Christmas program and as they move into eighth grade they get to learn—and master--hand bells. Many students take advantage of the afterschool beginner and intermediate guitar program.

St. Elizabeth School’s art program offers students the opportunity to understand, interpret and appreciate the visual arts and to explore their creative potential through hands-on art projects. The art program’s emphasis is on exploration and manipulation of art materials along with an exposure to a new visual language, perceptions, materials, and the world of art and artists.

The St. Elizabeth School Library Media Center is central to the school’s total educational mission. As such, it is considered as part of the whole teaching program, fully integrated into the curriculum. To serve the educational goals and objectives by providing access to information and ideas for school students is the library/media center mission.

And Spanish classes are taught to all students by a veteran teacher of 17 years.

Positive reinforcement for good behavior is encouraged daily.

Christian Witness Awards acknowledge students that teachers have observed performing “Acts of Kindness” at the school, a public award of a private act of kindness, encouraging students as young as three to “pay it forward” and become better citizens.

 

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

 

St. Elizabeth of Hungary School is located at 4019 South Hampton Road, Dallas, TX 75224 next door to the Walgreens on the corner of Loop 12 Ledbetter and Hampton. The school offers grades pre-k 3 through 8th grade. For more information see the school’s website: http://saintspride.com/ New students and their families can apply for the fall semester now.

The public is invited to come tour the school and meet the exceptional faculty and staff. For more information contact Sandy Walkley swalkley@saintspride.com
(214) 331-5139 x21

Or Carolyn Campos, Business Manager, ccampos@saintspride.com
(214) 331-5139 x23

Judy Porter writes about local heroes and businesses. Contact her at judy-porter@sbcglobal.net

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Surrounded by some of the many children they mentor, Vince Gaddis and Homero Perez are working together once again at Youth Believing in Change, 22 years after they met one summer when Homero was Vince's mentor.

Two men bond over their concern for Dallas children, and meet again 22 years later

Homero Perez was a staff member in 1995 for an AmeriCorps program sponsored by the Greater Dallas Community of Churches in Dallas. He was charged with the task of interviewing, hiring and training five leaders to serve in five areas of Dallas densely populated by children in poverty.

One applicant stood out. “Of all the individuals we interviewed, we knew that God was doing something unique in Vince's life. His passion, his eagerness to serve and his transparency overwhelmed us,” Perez says.

After much prayer and due diligence Vince was unanimously voted upon to work out in the field. Perez remembers, “Given the challenges of the poorest children in the inner city, Vince was best suited for the challenge.”

Perez says, “Training Vince was both a joy and a challenge. We traveled together, debated with one another and grew to respect and complement one another for the common good of children and families in the Vickery Meadows neighborhood.” Vince created a literacy program that reinforced young children’s academic lessons from school, while providing a spiritual bent. “The children needed more than tutoring,” Vince explains, “They needed someone to believe in them, and something to believe in.”

But the two came at life from different perspectives. Vince says, “At AmeriCorps Mr. Perez was my boss – and we used to argue all the time. Mr. Perez is very logical. I’m very innovative and creative. We’d go to lunch and have these loud conversations about how to do ministry. But we’d always come back around and remained friends.”

Both men enjoyed working together, but upon their completion of their commitment of service with AmeriCorps, the two-lost contact.

Perez went on to work with the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS.)

He was responsible for monitoring non-profits across the U. S.  He would often think of the great leaders he met while working with AmeriCorp. “Remembering how promising they all were, I often wondered how and what they were doing.” Perez says.

Two decades went by and in August of 2016 Perez decided to get back into the community service arena.  “I wanted something new, challenging and rewarding. Oddly, during one of my searches on USAJOBS.gov, I switched to a website called, Idealist.org. Interestingly, on the second posting was a listing for a teacher in a program called, Youth Believing in Change, (YBC.)”

Stunned, Perez thought, “No way! This can't be the program Vince Gaddis started.”

He immediately sent an e-mail to the contact to inquire if indeed it was the program Vince started in Vickery Meadows in 1995. At 1:12 a.m. Vince responded asking, “Who is this?”

Perez sent his name and Vince immediately replied, “You must call me when you can, this is Vince Gaddis who worked under your leadership in AmeriCorp."  

Perez followed up the next day. “I called Vince and he invited me to come see YBC. I was so pleased to learn that this program was still vibrant.”

A week later, he drove through the entrance gates of YBC all the while thinking it was probably located in the back of the church or maybe in an office area with a small room like it was when it started.

“As I toured the facility with Vince and saw all that YBC was doing, it became real clear to me why God led me to the Idealist.org website. Vince has always been an Idealist. What God is doing through him and the YBC staff IS Ideal. Especially given the many needs of children today.”

The two men talked for hours, and Perez volunteered for a week.

As the second week began Vince told Perez, "You are the exact person needed to help take YBC et to the next level. Please consider helping us.”

After going home to discuss and pray with his family about it, he realized that serving at YBC would fulfill his desire to do something new, challenging and rewarding. He lives just a few miles away in Garland from the Stults Road location in Lake Highlands. “I accepted the opportunity. Now I am reporting to the very leader I led!” Perez adds: “That's so rewarding!”

His job as Operations Manger is to run the day-to-day operations: organize, recruit and galvanize staff and volunteers to keep the program running smoothly. This frees up Vince so that he can promote the vision of YBC and raise funds from private sources and foundations to help the program be a strong example to the community. The two plan to make it replicable. “A ministry as dynamic and effective as YBC is needed in every community,” Perez says. "We need to grow new leaders for our city and country's future."

With over 250 children from age three to 13 currently registered--coming from nine different public schools--and 300 children attending summer camp, Vincent estimates he has helped over 6,000 students get through elementary and middle school.

A few dozen he’s even found college scholarships for. Some of those university graduates he’s hoping will return to visit, and maybe attend the ministry’s Annual Evening of Change on May 4, a celebration of the students’ success, replete with a performance by the Youth Choir led by Vince’s wife, Angela. New Dallas District Attorney Faith Johnson is the special speaker for the evening. She and Vince have known each other for decades.

Twenty-two years after two young men worked to help the children in the inner city of Dallas, the two now-mature men are back together, better than ever, believing positive change for the good is possible--through prayer and work—in the youth they mentor.

 

Youth Believing in Change (YBC) is a 501©3 non-profit after school program located on Stults Road in Lake Highlands and is free for children ages 3 to 17. Volunteers are always welcome. Private funds support the program, and donations are always welcome. Students from nine schools in DISD and the Richardson School District  are served. For more information, see the website: www.ybcdallas.org or for a tour, contact the office at 214-692-9242 or e-mail program director Angela Gaddis at angela@ybcdallas.org

YBC has an annual dinner, An Evening of Change, May 4, 2017 from 6:30 p.m.- 8:00 p.m. at Highland Park Presbyterian Church (Elliott Hall) — 3821 University Boulevard, Dallas, 75205. This year's keynote speaker is the new Dallas District Attorney, Faith Johnson. The public is invited to attend. For tickets or more information call 214-692-9242.

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Mother of four, grandmother of three, Liz Becerra's “Village" to help raise her family now includes her co-workers at the Law Offices of Lauren Medel. The all-female law firm specializes in helping single mothers and those with disabilities. Liz worked her way through high school and college courses while a pregnant teen, and her success gives hope to those clients she meets in similar tough situations.

Former Teen Mom Now Helps Other Teen Moms in the All-Female Law Office of Lauren Medel

Liz Becerra is moving up in the world, literally.

The front desk manager for The Law Offices of Lauren Medel, the new space for the all-female law firm is upstairs on the second floor of 1813 Balboa place in Oak Cliff. Liz is thrilled to be there, and happy to help every client who comes through the door.

Managing a busy law firm can be overwhelming for some, but Liz has been managing a busy life since her high school days. Pregnant and single, she maintained a 4.0 average throughout her high school years--which included an after-school job--all the while she was raising an infant as a teen mom.

Born in Monterrey, Mexico she came to the USA when she was four years old. Liz was raised in West Dallas, where she still lives, although a move closer to work—Oak Cliff—could happen one day soon.

One of seven children, and now the mother of four, Liz has a lot of people she can call for advice and support: brother Jaime, 39; Oyuki, 37; Susie, 36; Ana 34; Aaron 22; and Felicity 15.  

Liz dreamed of being an oceanographer and marine biologist when she grew up.  Soon after she had her 1st child she wanted to be a nurse, and then eventually a bilingual teacher.

 A Pinkston High School graduate with a 4.0, she didn’t have time to walk with her class because she graduated early in her 1st semester of '95 and went straight to work. She also took some college courses at Mountain View, but along the way she’d met her soul mate: Jeanenne Tubbs. They were acquaintances in high school, then re-met through social media as adults.

Liz is the proud mother of four children. Oldest daughter Briana is 24 and is engaged to Aurelio Aguilar; they have two daughters, Liz’s “Beautiful grandbabies” five-year-old Alyssa and one- year-old Aubrey. Son Rodolfo is 21 and has Liz’s two-year-old grandbaby, Nevaeh. Her third child is 17-year-old Kristina, a junior at Nimitz High School and an outstanding softball player for the Lady Vikings. The “baby” of her four is eight-year-old the Karla who is in the 2nd grade at Heights Prep.

With six siblings, four children and three grandchildren, Liz has plenty of at-home experience raising a family and struggling through tough times. She says what brought her to work at the Law Offices of Lauren Medel was simply that, “I enjoy helping people and I love learning new things every day.”

When she’s not raising kids or grandkids, Liz admits she loves to play golf and escape to the movies. She once met Alan Thicke in California at LAX airport, “But I didn't take a picture,” although she wishes she had. She would have loved to have had comedian Robin Williams over for dinner, but now that that’s not possible her “if I could have dinner with anybody I wish” guest would be actress Julia Roberts or the Obamas.  

She looks back on her toughest time, during high school, “when I had to juggle taking care of my oldest, and go to school and work.” Her slugging it through that time gives her great empathy for the young single parents she meets in the law office, looking for help. She credits her own mother, Margarita Becerra, for always helping her through her life, and “always having my back.”

Now Liz plans to look out for others who don’t have a mom to do that for them. “It takes a village to raise a child, and my family was my village,” she explains.

Looking ahead a decade, Liz says she’s not sure where she will be, except for “Happy! I may be here still working with Lauren, but I have always been a ‘go with the flow’ kind of person.”

Now, many years after her toughest ones in high school, Liz is moving up in the world—and taking her extended family with her.

 

Liz can be found in the new office space of Attorney Lauren Medel located at 1813 Balboa Place Suite 206 Dallas, TX 75224 or by contacting her at liz@laurenmedel.com

Judy Porter is a writer based in Dallas who features local heroes. She can be reached at judy-porter@sbcglobal.net